Thursday, February 27, 2014
Sorry for the back to back sweet potatoes, but as the saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention” and seeing as a) I am on a tight budget until tomorrow; b) I don’t feel like going to the store; and c) I had a bunch of sweet potatoes, well, necessity: meet your mother. She’s a sweet potato disguised as a fried chickpea fritter and she’s fortunately not as deceptive and sinister as that sounds.
I pinned this recipe months ago. It is from the blog 101 Cookbooks, which in addition to being visually stunning, is packed with healthy- yet mouthwatering recipes that I always find myself drooling over. These little toasty nuggets of bright orange sweet potato are NOT like your regular falafel. They are not super crunchy and they have that little bit of chew that sweet potato fries often have. So if you’re not into that, I won’t be offended, you can leave now. BUT, if you’re a big fan of sweet potatoes (and I obviously am) these will really hit the spot.
Now, obviously, you could use these interchangeably with regular falafel. Let’s say in a warm pita combined with tahini sauce, hummus and veggies. Since I don’t have any pita bread and I don’t see any materializing in my future (see reasons a-c above), I am thinking that tonight for dinner, we’ll have these in a bowl, of sorts. Alongside some whole wheat cous cous, garlicky roasted kale and broccoli topped with a scoop of hummus. Then I’m going to garnish the whole thing with some hot sauce and a wedge of lemon for squeezing over. Aaanddd…now I want dinner.
BAKED SWEET POTATO FALAFEL
From 101 Cookbooks
1 large sweet potato
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 small clove garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Scant ½ cup chickpea flour*
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425. Stab potato a few times with a fork and let roast until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let potato cool, then peel and transfer to a large bowl.
Add cumin, coriander, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and chickpea flour to bowl. Mash together well with a fork, until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle in a tiny splash of olive oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for one hour.
Heat oven to 400. Using two spoons, scoop falafel mix out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I also found the ‘dough’ was pliable enough to just be scooped and rounded with my hands, but it probably depends on how cool it is. I halved the original recipe and ended up with about one dozen falafel. Generously sprinkle the tops of your falafel with sesame seeds and a pinch of salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes until browned on the bottoms. Serve warm.
*what with the whole gluten free thing going strong, alternative flours are in conventional grocery stores more and more these days; but I’m fairly certain I bought my chickpea flour at the health food store. If you can’t find it in your local grocer, try there, or hit up Bob’s Red Mill online. That’s the brand I use.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
When Paul and I lived with my aunt and uncle this summer while we were waiting to close on our house, we quickly adapted to their household lifestyle. We realized after nights one, two and three that these folks ate dinner. A proper dinner, seated together, with conversation (and usually wine) every single night. Even if we didn’t get to the table until 9 p.m. As you can imagine, we were super into it. I mean, you know, a nice well rounded meal every evening along with some good conversation can really hit the reset button on your day. It was a recalibration of sorts, with side dishes (and usually rolls!)
My favorite thing about Eric and Linda’s dinner ritual was this: the Kluz family meal time did not stray from the protein/vegetable/starch trifecta. Not once. Coming from our house where we often have say, a pizza and a handful of wasabi peas, or 8 varieties of vegetables folded into taco shells, this return to the classic meal format was seriously a real treat. I also realized that it just works. It’s easy and it’s GOOD. Not that I don’t like adventurous meal planning. We all know that. I mean you’re talking to a woman who spent all of my afternoon yesterday mentally composing what kind of tacos I would make for dinner. Some days you just don’t have time for that. Bake some chicken thighs, slowly wilt a green vegetable and mash the crap out of a starch. Don’t over think it. Because at the end of it all, the most important thing is sitting down together and enjoying the meal. These two side dishes are my absolute favorite right now. They’re both so easy it hurts, very healthy and all you have to do is add a protein of your choice. How easy is that?
BRAISED KALE with GOLDEN RAISINS,
PINE NUTS and SHAVED PARMESAN
1 bunch kale
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock (approx.)
Juice from ½ lemon ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ golden raisins
Salt and pepper, to taste
Let's just address the fact that kale is really having a moment right now. It's also, in my opinion, kind of gross raw. I love, love, love it braised or gently roasted, though. It feels less like a punishment and more like a nourishment. This recipe serves 2, if you're cooking for a crowd keep in mind kale wilts down substantially, you want to purchase about one bunch per 2 people. To prep the kale: tear leaves off of their thick stems by holding it at the root end and ripping up, with gentle force. Then, rip the leaves into smaller pieces and wash thoroughly by soaking in cold water, draining once, soaking again and either giving it a spin in a salad spinner or towel drying a bit.
In a braising pan or Dutch oven (i.e., something that works on the stove top, with a lid that fits) heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a half a minute, until fragrant. Add kale and stir together, then pour in the chicken stock until it comes just about an inch up the side of the pan. Clamp the lid on and let the kale braise for about 12-15 minutes, lifting the lid and stirring about once or twice. While the kale braises, toast the pine nuts over low heat in a non-stick pan, squeeze and strain your lemon juice and measure out the raisins.
Raise the lid and add lemon juice and golden raisins. Return the lid and let cook another 2-3 minutes, until the kale is quite wilted and cooked down. Remove the lid and let cook another minute or two to allow most of the residual cooking liquid to evaporate. Remove from pan and scatter pine nuts over, then use a vegetable peeler to shave parmesan on top. Serve immediately.
MASHED SWEET POTATOES
with BUTTER and COCONUT OIL
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
½ tsp. coconut oil
½ tsp. butter
In a stock pot or sauce pan, cover potato completely with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove lid and let cook until potatoes are completely tender when pricked with a knife. Remove from heat, strain off water and return potatoes to pot. Add coconut oil, butter, a generous pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Equal parts butter and coconut oil, plus the right amount of salt make these potatoes taste creamy, a bit tropical and sweetly decadent. I am legitimately obsessed. I want to turn these into pancakes and falafels and pretty much anything else where they might fit.
Use a potato masher or pulse with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve immediately with another small sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
If you have been here before and you’re paying attention, it should come as no surprise that I’m moderately obsessed with lentils. This winter, the obsession has been elevated to something worth being concerned about thanks, in whole, to this lentil salad. I had this salad for the first time at a baby shower/brunch for one of my main ladies back in early November. I then spent the entire ride back from New York to Boston and the next three subsequent conversations with my boss trying to reverse engineer its exact components. It was that good.
The brunch was held at Public on Elizabeth Street and we had a choice from a fixed menu of French toast, a few tasty egg dishes, or this lentil salad. I chose the lentil salad without much hesitation since I don’t mess with sweet breakfast foods and the egg dishes weren’t jumping out at me. Later, seeing plate after plate of savory eggs being laid down in front of my dining companions I was momentarily seized with regret: “what was I thinking! Lentil salad for breakfast?!” Thankfully this cloud of doubt was eradicated the moment I scooped a forkful into my mouth. My friend Sandra and I took a pause in our conversation, locked eyes and murmured through full mouths something along the lines of “WHOA- good salad” and "mmm srsslyreallygoodsalad" Now, it takes a special kind of salad to get two college girlfriends that don’t see each other often to shut their yaps and stop talking for a moment. This is particularly that kind of salad.
HERBED FRENCH LENTIL, GREEN BEAN and AVOCADO SALAD
with POMEGRANATE MOLASSES VINAIGRETTE
1 cup French lentils, cooked til al dente and drained
Small bunch green beans, trimmed and blanched
½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts
½ avocado, peeled and diced
5-6 chives, finely minced
Leaves from one sprig tarragon, minced
POMEGRANATE MOLASSES VINAIGRETTE
½ cup avocado oil*
1 tbs. pomegranate molasses*
½ shallot, minced
Juice from ½ lemon
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
Salt and pepper
*avocado oil can be tough to find, but it makes this dressing out-of-control good, so seek it out if you can (you can sub extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil). You can find it at most health food stores and probably Whole Foods; it's usually about $6 and is great for dressings and roasting vegetables. As for pomegranate molasses, most well stocked grocery stores will carry this (near the regular molasses) as well as any Middle Eastern food markets.
Bring lentils to simmer in a medium-sized sauce pan (You can use water or vegetable stock to cook them, both work equally well). Let simmer about 15 minutes and then begin checking the lentils for doneness. They should be cooked, not crunchy, but still have just a touch of bite to them. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside. Blanch green beans for approximately 2-3 minutes in boiling water, and then drop them into a bowl filled with ice water in order to stop the cooking and retain a nice bright green color.
Combine lentils, green beans, avocado, herbs and nuts in a bowl. If you have an immersion blender, use it to make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a wide mouthed mug or jar and then pulsing until completely combined. If you do not have an immersion blender, combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine completely. Taste the dressing and adjust if it needs more seasoning. Pomegranate molasses is super tangy, so it may benefit from a touch more sugar or honey and a little more salt and pepper. Dress the salad with a drizzle of dressing and serve warm or at room temperature.
This is a delicious, hearty side dish with poached fish, or grilled chicken breasts. You will have extra dressing, try using it on mixed greens with roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash- it works perfectly.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Here’s the truth: I really don’t like recipes all that much. Typically, when I’m interested in a making a particular dish, I will google a couple methods, talk to a few trusted people and then use the loose interpretation of those instructions as my base. And then I just simply do my own thang. Because I’m a m-----r f-----n renegade. And let us not be fooled, this method totally blows up in my face sometimes. But how else will I learn? It’s not that I don’t read cookbooks or the many food magazines I receive each month. In fact, I read them with the rapt attention that most of us reserve for the consumption of the Star Tracks portion of People Magazine (McConahey! Shirtless Jogging! AGAIN?!) And then, after reading, I stash them on a shelf in my kitchen and pretty much never refer to them again.
But then came Chang. Joanne Chang, that is, and her Flour, Too cookbook; which was given to me by my Aunt Sally as a housewarming gift. Hit after hit after hit. This thing is SOLID GOLD. It’s like the Jay Z Blueprint of cookbooks. I have yet to EVEN make a substitution- that’s how blindly in love with this thing I am. First, it gave me yet another delicious lentil soup; then an appetizer for New Years Day; and then, last week, on a freezing cold Wednesday night it gave me one of the simplest, most satisfying healthy dinners I have had in recent memory. So here for you I present in their entirety, with absolutely no typical Porky-style renovations, unblemished, tasty perfection in the form of Scallion Pancakes and Mama Chang’s Hot and Sour Soup. I am literally counting the days until I can make this soup again. It takes all of 20 minutes to throw together, incorporates about 5 of my most favorite ingredients (pork, tofu, mushrooms, Sriracha, soy) and is just so damn good. GO! Make it! I’m running out of exclamation points.
MAMA CHANG’S HOT and SOUR SOUP
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, minced; plus two tbsp. for garnish
8 oz. ground pork
4 cups chicken stock
1 lb. block firm tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes
4-5 button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. sesame oil; plus 2 tsp. for garnish
1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce
2 large eggs
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, garlic, ginger and scallions and sauté, breaking up a bit, for about one minute. Add the chicken stock and bring up to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, sriracha and bring the soup back up to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Taste and add more sriracha if you would like more spice, more vinegar if you want more sour. I added probably another tablespoon of hot sauce and vinegar, as well as another little pinch of sugar. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended and with the soup at a steady simmer (meaning there are some bubbles, but it is not a hard boil) slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and garnish each with a few drops sesame oil and some chopped scallions. Serve immediately.
8-9 scallions, minced
¼ cup sesame oil
1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 lb store bought pizza dough
About 1 ½ cups vegetable oil, for frying
3 tbsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. sriracha sauce
½ tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. peeled and minced ginger
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 scallion, minced
In a small bowl, mix together the scallions, sesame oil and salt. Cut the dough into thirds. On a well floured surface roll out one portion into a thin rectangle, about 5x10 inches. Spread a few spoonfuls of the scallion mixture evenly over the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border the whole way around. Starting at a long side, roll up each rectangle and pinch the seam together to form a seal. Spiral each roll into a snail-looking coil and tuck the ends under. Repeat with each remaining section of dough and place all three coils in a warm area, covered loosely with plastic wrap for two hours.
On a generously floured surface, press each coil into a flat circle and roll out into a flattened circle, about 10 inches in diameter. It’s fine if some of the scallion/sesame juice squishes out the sides a bit, but you may need more flour to prevent sticking to the counter. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, until it is super hot and shimmering. While the oil heats, make the dipping sauce by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl, or putting them all in a jar and giving it a few strong shakes.
To tell whether the oil is ready for frying: flick a pinch of flour in; if it sizzles, the temperature is right. Carefully add one pancake to the oil and fry for about 2 minutes per side, until golden colored. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and continue with the other two batches of dough. Let the oil come back up to temperature between each pancake by taking that time to roll out the next disk.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
I have to say, for the first time in my life, I think I have something in common with Steve Perry. Something else, that is, besides awkward bang length, a penchant for high kicks and AMAZING vocal range. What we have in common is that I understand now, how he could love Sherrie so, so much. So much that he would risk alienating his fellow band members to maintain their relationship at all costs (we’ve been watching a lot of Behind the Music lately). What I’m saying is that I might risk everything to be with sherry, too; because it’s just that good.
However I am not speaking of former Perry paramour, Sherrie Swafford, but sherry of the liquid varietal. I bought a bottle a few months back to make a particular chicken dish and since then have been splashing this sweet nectar into just about every savory dish I make. It adds a depth of flavor and complexity that is simply to die for and I feel like a fancy chef who’s in the know whenever I uncap the bottle and splash it into the pan. It also elevates these regular old stuffed mushrooms from something tasty, to something worth writing a love song over.
Now, I’m willing to bet that you judge sherry as an ingredient that is simply too fussy to stock in the pantry on a regular basis and I tell ya, I used to be one of you. As my sister-in-law said, “If I see a recipe that calls for sherry, I usually just look for a different recipe.” It seems like a commitment, right? To buy that whole bottle only to use a half cup and then banish it to the floor of the pantry next to the crème de menthe. I get it. I really do. I try my hardest not to cook anything that calls for difficult ingredients. But let me tell you something: sherry is shelf stable and cheap (there’s a reason it has been the chosen beverage of thrifty grandmas for decades) which means it can kick it in the pantry and come out a few times a year when you find one of those recipes that calls for it. But I can bet you’ll be busting it out more often than that.
VEGETARIAN STUFFED MUSHROOMS
24 cremini or button mushrooms
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, minced
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ walnuts, toasted
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons butter, divided
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 375. Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown and fragrant, set aside. In a small, dry skillet toast walnuts over low heat until fragrant and slightly browned, set aside. While the breadcrumbs and nuts toast: clean mushrooms by wiping with a damp cloth and snap out the stems, reserving. Any caps that break during this process can be relegated to the stems pile. Set mushroom caps aside and coarsely chop all of the stems. (Mushroom stems in fancy chef speak are known as “duxelle” I know this because on our wedding menu we had Marsala and Duxelle Stuffed Mushrooms and I was like “what’s ‘duxelle’?” and our catering manager was like “mushroom stems.” I've been chucking perfectly good duxelle in the trash for years. Color me informed. If I was putting these on a restaurant menu I would called them Walnut, Sherry and Duxelle Stuffed Mushrooms, but since this is Porky Dickens, we’re going with the easy search term, you can do as you please, depending on who you’re trying to impress.)
Wipe out large skillet and heat remaining tablespoons butter over medium high heat, add shallots and sauté 2-3 minutes, then add garlic, red pepper and chopped stems, excuse me, duxelle. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are nicely browned and have released their juices; adding another half pat of butter if the pan seems dry at all (about 7-8 minutes). Raise heat just a touch and pour in sherry. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits of mushroom or shallot off the bottom of the pan as the liquor reduces, about another 5 minutes. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Remove pan from heat and let cool a bit.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine sautéed mushroom mixture, parmesan, breadcrumbs, walnuts and parsley, along with another pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse to combine well, until the mixture resembles a super course meal, but individual elements are still visible (i.e. you can still see flecks of red pepper and parsley). Taste and season if necessary and pulse once or twice more to combine. Use a soup spoon to smoosh a generous scoop of filling into each mushroom cap. Lightly grease a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil and bake until bronzed on top, about 30-35 minutes.
To make ahead: Once my mushroom caps were stuffed, I placed all of them on cookie sheets and placed them straight into the freezer for a few hours. Once the stuffed mushrooms had frozen solid, I bagged them up for easy transport. They held together very well this way and can be baked straight out of the freezer; it may simply increase the cooking time just a bit.
What kind of sherry? Good question. You will typically find three popular kinds of sherry on the shelf: fino, amontillado and cream. Fino is the driest of the lot, amontillado is medium-bodied and the most versatile, but I prefer cream sherry, it has a silkiness I really like and enough residual sugar to make it useful in both savory dishes and desserts. The brand I have is Ivison, which is a solid choice and retails for about $11.